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What is the Meaning of a Test Optional College (or Test Blind College)?

With the occurrence of the pandemic, many colleges have gone to being 'test optional' or 'test blind'. But what does that really mean? And, does it affect your chances at scholarships if you don't take those high school college admission tests?

Should your child send scores to a test optional college? 

First, let's clarify what these terms mean by getting the definitions out of the way right up front. 

Test optional means you don't NEED a test to get into that college if you meet all their other admission criteria. Test blind means you don't send them test scores at all unless requested, and in addition, they will not consider tests at all. But, as you might have suspected, that's not the whole story.

Test optional does NOT mean that they will admit everyone, or give scholarships to everyone, or make college more affordable. Test blind doesn't mean you are certain of admission even if you do meet admission criteria. If they have a lot of applicants, they have to reject someone, and they may still use tests as defining factors of admittance. I hope that it means universities will again invest in a holistic assessment of students, where they consider the whole person, but I think tests will continue to be one piece of their analysis.

My advice:

  • If your child CAN score well on tests, then DO provide test scores even at a test optional university.  
  • If your child does score above average on tests, the DO put test scores on your homeschool transcript so they can see the scores even if they are not submitted directly to the college.


Read these two articles and you'll be up to speed on test-optional current events.

  • "UC applicants could continue to submit SAT® and ACT scores during this period for use in awarding scholarships, and for the state guaranteed admissions provision that grants admission to those in the top eighth of California high schools." - University of California Votes Down SAT
  • "SAT® and ACT scores routinely increase students' chances of being admitted to college, receiving more financial aid and placing out of remedial and introductory courses -- even at test-optional universities." - Words Matter

 You know about test optional, but what about test essay optional?

Another "optional" piece of the testing puzzle is the optional essay test on the college admissions tests.  

While the college admission tests aren't only about length, they definitely needs to be lengthy. Still, 50 minutes to write a well organized, well articulated, lengthy essay may seem like a tall order. What about all the steps for creating an essay, like brainstorming, outlines, and editing? Are you a bit worried about "teaching to the test" and having to spend a lot of time practicing the essay?

I know that it's frustrating when you feel like you are having to "teach to the test." Let's try to look at it from a different perspective, though. Writing is a very important skill and we need to reason that there are two completely different kinds of writing.

First, there is writing that is edited, proofread, and "perfect." For adults, this can be newsletters, Christmas card letters, and letters to the editor. For children, this can be reports and essays they write, both for fun and for homeschool work.

The second kind of writing is impromptu writing, which has to be good but it doesn't have to be perfect. This can include casual business writing, job applications, interview questions, etc. For children, the second kind of writing will include essay tests, AP® exams, and the SAT® essay.

These two kinds of writing involve completely different skills. My sons are glad they developed BOTH skills, but I've only been formally thanked once. When Alex took his first college essay test, he greeted us that day by saying, "Thank you SO much for teaching us to write a college essay! I aced my test today and the other kids had trouble writing for a timed test!"

Bottom line? You want to teach your children good quality writing with revisions that include brainstorming, outlining, and writing. It's also important to teach them to write good quality writing where you don't have the luxury of outlining and revisions. You will find your children will use both skills in college and in life.

How can you find a college that is homeschool friendly? 

​So. What should you consider when looking at colleges with your student, since there are so many options!?

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) does a wonderful job of explaining what it means to be a homeschool friendly college. 

In general, a homeschool friendly college is one that treats a homeschool applicant the same as a public school applicant. Your child would be requested to take the exact same tests as any other student - more tests are not required of a homeschool applicant. Some college say they are homeschool friendly, when in reality they have "hoops" that we have to jump through. HSLDA has a rating scale for college admission policies here:

  • Tier 1: The college accepts the parent's transcript, along with general standardized achievement testing, and/or the review of a portfolio
  • Tier 2: The college requires a GED® in place of, or in addition to, any of the Tier I requirements.
  • Tier 3: This type of college requires test scores (like the SAT® II) from home school students that are not required of traditional high school students, which is inequitable.

All colleges admit homeschoolers. Whether your heart is set on a tier 1, 2 or 3 college, it pays to know their admissions policy and plan in advance. And remember, no matter what college you are thinking about, make sure you visit! No amount of online comparison can really communicate the differences between schools. College "view" books are created by marketing people trying to make their school look the best. The only way to determine if a college will "fit" is by visiting. Students should look at the college and ask two questions:

  1. Can I live here for four years?
  2. Can I learn here for four years?

Only a visit to a college can provide answers to these questions!

 ** SAT®, AP®, and CLEP® are trademarks owned by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this blog post or The HomeScholar, LLC.

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Friday, 25 September 2020

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